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Car #20 at Rainier Beach Station

RVHS Photo #93.1.196

In this early Rainier Valley photo, taken about 1905, car number 20 of the "Seattle & Renton RY" pauses at Rainier Beach Station which today is the intersection of Rainier Avenue S. and 57th Avenue S. On the left of the photo is O'Harra's Grocery Store and Boat House. The lake, visible in the foreground, almost came up to the streetcar tracks.

The lake was lowered 9 feet twelve years later in 1917, when the locks were built in Ballard. However at the time this photo was made the lake covered all of the land that is now the site of Rainier Beach High School and their athletic field, and the new QFC store parking lot.

The post office referred to Rainier Beach station as "Montera." According to the Polk Directory of 1910, there were 25 listed residents, the main store was the Rainier Beach Mercantile Co. whose address was " 57th Avenue S. corner Rainier Blvd.", as Rainier Avenue was named at that time. Two physicians were listed as residents, one being Dr. Jos L. Hutchinson,  father of Fred and Dr. Bill Hutchinson.

The car line continued past Rainier Beach Station, through a cut in the bank, on its way along the lakeshore to Renton. The next stop would be Taylor's Mill at what is now 68th Avenue South. 

The road and sidewalk that paralleled the streetcar line as it approached Rainier Beach Station, is not visible as it turned south, up the hill to the right. The hill was too steep for the streetcars so after several years, a shuttle bus was provided by the streetcar line to transport riders up and down the hill. It was several years before Rainier Avenue was extended along the lakeshore, just above the streetcar tracks, to Renton.

Close to Oharra's Boathouse was the landing dock for the steamship "Haas." It was a passenger launch that ferried people across the lake to Kennydale and back. The skipper was  Mr. H. J. Patterson. To get to Renton, passengers from Seattle would depart the streetcar at Rainier Beach, take the ferry to Kennydale and then walk about 2 miles to Renton.  

School children living on the eastside of the lake would take this route daily to attend the schools in Rainier Valley. The ferry also served the few people who lived on the south end of Mercer Island, stopping on occasion when the residents needed to get to the mainland.

Rail service to Rainier Beach started in March of 1891. Track laying for the Rainier Valley line began in January of 1889 at Railroad Avenue and Washington Street on Seattle's waterfront. The streetcars climbed the steep grade of Washington Street with the aid of a counterbalance. Later, regrading would eliminate the need for the counterbalance. 

The cars then turned south on the route that several years later would become Rainier Avenue. Until Rainier Avenue was put in, if you didn't take the streetcar, there was a muddy trail that went up and over Beacon Hill and into Seattle.

The end of the line at Rainier Beach quickly became a popular picnic spot for the people of Rainier Valley. They could get aboard anywhere along Rainier Avenue, perhaps with their blanket and picnic basket, and depart at the end of the line for a day of swimming, fishing or relaxing on the beach. 

The fare for the streetcar ride was 4 cents per person, each way.       


Days Gone By 

South District Journal 5/19/1999

By Buzz Anderson


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